Nose Stud: Dr. Chirravoori Shyam (Medico Shyam)

Shyam Chirravoori

Translation by N S Murty

Note: This story was published in the June 1980 issue of Andhra Jyothi, a renowned Telugu monthly of yesteryears. 

A doctor encounters an attendant to one of the inpatients during one of his rounds in a hospital. She is inconspicuous otherwise but for the Nose Stud. That nose stud triggers some memories and a dislike for the women in question. Despite knowing that his prejudice against her was unfair, he could not help it. Her behaviour only compounds it. What unfolds in the climax is not a twist for the sake of a twist but a logical consequence of the narrative.  Dr. Shyam has an excellent narrative technique which is simple, lyrical, and riveting. 

Well, if I had seen her six years back and you asked me for my opinion, I don’t know what I might have had said; but now, she did not impress me at all. She was of such a stocky cylindrical build. I had little flair to look for elegance in such women.
While returning after attending to the patient at bed no 4, it first caught my attention. The nose stud… a thin, white, nose stud. And through the brilliance of the nose stud, the lady caught my attention.
I hurried off the ward and sank into my chair.
I lost myself in thoughts…

Why do people look strange?
Particularly this woman… and her belligerence
She was more like a muted color on a painting, an uncultured woman in the garb of cultured!
What made her look so insolent?
She was drawing the attention of every male attendant at the other beds in the ward.
Of course, she failed in my case.
She didn’t have that charm.
I would deny if anybody said that humility is an asset to a woman.
I had noticed many times an unearthly charm even in the most supercilious of women.
Even when something got up their nose … 
They had a strange attraction in their anger…
In what others dubbed arrogance, I saw an assertion of individuality.
Even among otherwise unattractive women, I saw great appeal in exhibition of their pride.
But, for the first time, I understood an impolite woman could be disgusting.
People behave so strangely.
There are people who exceed the expectations of their parents
People who feel they were superior.
People who reached great heights.
People who feel that they are above all others.
I was in a dilemma whether to call her a girl or a matured woman.
The way she conversed with her mother… with her father… or fellow attendants… there was something revolting.
If the parents could afford it, they could find a suitable husband for even an average-looking girl.
And if perchance, that husband was rich or a high ranking-officer, she would conveniently forget her origins and behave as if she had descended from heaven. It would not only surprise but nauseate.
The tender green hues of the leafy offshoots, darkness of overhanging clouds, bright azure afternoons, evenings like the sari folds smoothly brushing the feet, and a gentle whiff of breeze… are the gorgeous poetic material that tenant and reflect through the eyes of any sweet, suave, and sensitive women.
A life swept away by the meaningless rant of a boastful, egotistic, conceited woman would seem not worth living.
You might be wondering… whether it is worth abhorring so intensely a woman attendant of a patient.
In fact, there is only one thing that is worth hating!
That is hate itself!
There is only one thing that is worth abhorring!
It is abhorrence itself!
Her gait was an epitome of the most undesirable qualities in any woman in the creation.
How many women you come across on the road? How many stupid, ignoramus dames you meet every day? How many women try to fool men with state-of-the-art techniques?
“Do you ever spare a moment for them?
Then why do you break your head over this woman?”  one may ask.
In the infinitum of time, people flash like a streak of lightning and disappear in a trice.
But, just as a slew of such 'trice's form a haphazard line, the acquaintance with some people lasts for too short a time, with limited success, even after undergoing several changes over time.
Such acquaintances tempt us to form opinions about those people.
And most of the time, our assessment would turn out to be right, if only we could reason and analyze the situations dispassionately.

I was making my customary visit to the ward, checking the BP and pulse, and recording the progress on the chart for each patient.
I went to bed no. 18.
I wrapped the BP cuff around the upper arm of the patient. I casually looked aside before inflating the cuff.
She suddenly stood up.
“Never mind. Please take your seat,” I said politely.
“Shouldn’t I respect the duty doctor?” she said with a strange laughter.
Pressure in the apparatus suddenly dropped! I inflated the cuff once again, checked BP and noted it. I reconciled myself by reasoning that some people could never speak properly.
On another occasion when I was administering injection to a patient, she came to me and said, “I want penicillin injection.”
“Why?” I asked.
“I have a whitlow on my finger. It is pricking me because there is infection,” she replied.
I looked at the nail.
There was nothing wrong with it.
“One should not use medicines casually,” I said.
“Why do you say it like that? It is aching.”
“Penicillin may produce adverse reactions in some people. We should not administer without giving test dose,” I said.
“I am a doctor’s wife! Don’t you think I know that much?”
I was perplexed whether to censure her or to keep my cool.
She began reeling out her knowledge of how to treat the patient.
I came out.
Why are people eager to show off their knowledge at the drop of a hat?
Brilliancy must be apparent, but not to be exhibited.
Brilliance is a short-lived flash with any person, however great he might be. I fail to understand why people always crave to appear brilliant.
Just because her husband was a doctor how could she be knowledgeable about everything in medicine?
Even after years of persistent study and practice, some doctors realize that what they have learnt was nothing!

She returned after an hour.
“Doctor! Tell me whether you are giving me injection or not?”
Reconciled to administering her injection, I scribbled the prescription on a paper and asked her to get it.
She looked at the prescription.
“You want me to buy?” she asked.
“Yes. If you can get the injection, I have no objection to administer it,” I replied.
“Can’t you give?” 
“Where can I get that from?”
“You must be having a huge stock in your ward.”
“These medicines and injections available in the ward are meant for inpatients. They are not for others like you,” I said in as cool a tone as I could.
“Hum…” she left in a huff.

There was an assembly on the firmament.
The moon was in the chair. All the stars were the spectators.
The proceedings were going on silently.
As if providing background music, a cool breeze capering on the waves was playing strange melodies.
Gita was sitting by me.
No. I should rather say, I was sitting next to her.
In that translucent light, her rosy lips did not look rosy. Yet, their softness was still flitting sweet downy aches in my mind’s eye. There, their redness was a brilliant red.
Over the tip of the smooth, bowing nose, there twinkles a thin nose stud!
The stone on the stud was white.
Somehow, of all the stones that adorn the nose studs, white stone stands out.
And the least appealing is the pearl.
Like the famous artist Bapu’s brush stroke… like a brow stretched like bow, it was a great charm on the nose stud.
“What are you so seriously looking at?” asked Gita.
“Only you,” I said.
“Um…”  she cooed.
“You look more beautiful than my poetry,” I said.
She burst into a fit of laughter.
“Why? Why do you laugh so extravagantly?” I asked.
She did not answer.
I repeated the question.
“Perhaps, anybody would look more beautiful than your poems.”
I could never understand why all the intelligence of a man comes to nought before a woman.
For two minutes I could not say anything.
The moonlight over the vast expanse of the sea was like a thin layer of cream.
And the ‘silence’ within was playing Jala Tarangini (the water instrument) asking in its own way, whether to speak or not!
There is great poetry in life. There is melody of cataracts in imagination. It is a tragedy that they never empty into our conversations.
It is strange why people who could enjoy reading and listening to poetry, cannot accept the same in real life!
‘Your tresses are burdens beyond the forbearance of my sensibility,’ I said to myself.
“Come on, let’s go!”  I proposed.

Take it from me, she did not go for injection for another week.
She never needed it.
There was neither infection nor aggravation of it on her finger or toe.
“He did not even respect me as the wife of another doctor …”
I overheard her speaking to someone.
Decency of expression refrained me from putting the later part of the sentence on paper.
I cannot put up with people who can afford to look for freebees always. I cannot suffer them.
I would never have taken notice of her, but for that nose stud. It had such painful nostalgic associations for me!
A thin nose stud is as figurative as a sensitive idea.
It would be a misfit on haughty and firebrand women. It would look pale. The idea would lose its romance.
A nose stud is a beautiful accessory to any woman that could electrify her surroundings, but not that on those who send negative vibes.

It occasioned that I had to send the blood sample of the patient on bed no 18 for hematology tests.
Putting some oxalate crystals in a blood bottle, I approached the patient with a needle and syringe.
No matter how ardent, passionate, and enthusiastic you behave, there would be no ripple of response from some people.
Similarly, however much you try, it would be hard to find the veins in some patients, as hard as decent words from the attendant daughter of bed no. 18.
 While I was sweating out to feel the veins of the patient, asking the patient to make a fist, standing next to me she said,
“No use. Even more Senior doctors have tried but failed.”
I went to my cabin, brought the BP cuff, and inflated it. After a prolonged search I could locate a very thin vein. As I probed for the vein and tried to anchor it drawing the skin taut with my thumb, she remarked,
“No. No. No. Don’t puncture the vein unnecessarily. It is so clearly visible.”
It was hard to draw blood from such a small vein. Why should she poke her nose in others’ affairs?
After two or three trials, I could draw the blood.
“Thank God!” I said within.
“Thank God!” she said with a sigh of relief.
It is but natural for me to get irritated on such occasions.
That was exactly what had happened.

In her green sari, Gita looked like a vine tossing among the leaves under the light wind.
Darkness was in wait.
The evening was cool … as cool as the green shade of innocence to the limits of vision.
It was a passionate half an hour with her.
And I fell into a kind of automatism, common for all young men on such occasions ….
That means, I was not conscious of what I was saying to her.
“What do you like the most in this world?” I asked her.
“What can I say if you ask me what interests me the most? Interests are relative. You can always find something more interesting than anything before. And interests keep changing over time.”
I don’t know whether she said with a practical outlook so common for women or a repeat of a quote or a dialogue from somewhere.
 I was not able to discern.
Yes. My intention was more to express my likes than to listen to hers.
But she did not ask me.
The wind was still blowing on and off, like a caressing hand.
My mind was rattling in between.
On the spur of a moment, I said,
“The most interesting thing to me in this world is your nose stud!”
This time she did not burst into a fit of laughter.
She was silent for a minute.
With a gentle smile she asked,
“You mean the nose, or the nose stud?”
I was groping for words.
What a weakness! Words desert us when we need them the most!
Eyes rain to make up for what expressions fail to convey.
Tears bleared my eyes.
Why did they come out? Out of excitement? Or grief?

Darkness falls.
It dawns again.
Hues sparkle.
Moonlight shines
It rains.
Day breaks again.
Seasons change.
People change.
Roads divide.
People part.
Over time, even the strong wall paint- fades out.
But the most coveted color picture...hidden amidst the most delicate folds in the deep recesses of the mind… shall never wear, tear, or erase.
In that picture… there was a vague fuzzy face.
A beautiful nose appears jutting out from it.
And adorning its lovely tip… lies a brilliant nose stud!
My nose stud!

 Unless we unwind and rewind, ruminate and review, the twists and turns of our life will not be so apparent.
More so, for people whose life becomes synonymous with their profession, the impressions are not so strong.
They cannot lead their lives to their choice.
Emergencies and exigencies take precedence over their personal preferences, or psychological choices.
That was why no matter what the attendant of patient on bed no. Eighteen had said, and the consequent reluctance to treat the patient, I had to discharge my duties with due care.
I had to spend a sleepless night - to remove the hurdles and wipe away the tears!
If only we care to give a patient ear, even on the most ebony night, you can hear the hymns of dawn from afar.
And the vestiges of truth seem so real to us at times while they looked exactly opposite a bit earlier.
A whiff of air in the evening after a singeing summer day shall give a great relief.
But the same whiff might frighten you to your bones on a cold wintry night.
With all that, we shall taste success even randomly.
The same thing happened.
Patient on bed no 18 was out of danger.
Like the blue pacific sea glistening under sun visible through the coconut plantation from afar, the atmosphere was pleasantly quiet.
The patient on bed no 18 and her attendant expressed their thanks to me.
Of the most gratifying things in this world, looks filled with gratitude are one.
We should treat them as such.
We should not spoil its purity searching for intentions behind it.
We will be in a different world, even for a fleeting moment.
But some people deprive us even of that consolation.
The attendant daughter of patient on bed no. 18 came to me and said, “Thank you doctor for all the care you have taken to treat my mother. We are deeply indebted to you. We would like to…” she was about say something when I intervened.
“That is my duty and what I am here for.” I said pretending to be busy and leave.
“At least for our satisfaction…” she continued.
I was angry, never understood why people underestimate others.
“At least something as a remembrance…” she persisted.
As if this is not enough, you want to haunt me with your memory… I thought within.
As she repeated her appeal once more, I considered deeply for a moment and asked with a smile,
“Do you really fulfil my request?”
‘Oh, yes,” she replied.
“Are you sure?” I repeated.
“By all means.” She assured me.
“I am asking you very seriously…” I said for the third time.
“I promise you with the same seriousness” she assured.
“Then, will you stop wearing that nose stud?”
She was stunned!

Bio of Dr. Shyam Chirravoori

A graduate from Andhra Medical College, Visakhapatnam and Postgraduate from All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, Dr. Shyam hails from  Vizianagaram, Andhra Pradesh. He wrote prolifically under pen name 'Medico Shyam' during 1970's and 80's.  His short stories have been translated into English, Hindi and other languages. Vanguri Foundation of America has brought out a collection of Short stories “Shyamyana” in 2010. Dr. Shyam is a consummate literary aficionado with wide network and ready random access memory. 
After taking voluntary retirement from Central Health Services, India, Dr. Shyam settled in McKinney, TX. USA 75092 and reachable at 

Bio of NS Murty
A postgraduate in M.Sc. (Applied Mathematics) and MA (English Literature) from Andhra University, Waltair Mr. Murty was also a graduate student of English Literature at University of Houston, Texas during Spring 2011.
Mr. Murty has to his credit two collections of his poetry- Incidental Muses and PenChants; two collections of select Telugu poems rendered into English- The Wakes on the Horizon and The Voices of the Surf; a collection of one hundred best poems from world literature rendered into Telugu with brief introduction for each poem, KavitvamtO EdaDugulu; and a collection of best short stories from world literature rendered into Telugu, Katha Lekhini. At the behest of Mr. GM Rao, Group Chairman, GMR Group, he also translated Marshall Goldsmith’s ‘What Brought You Here Won’t Get You There’ into Telugu independently and Prof. V. Raghunathan’s ‘Games Indians Play’ with his senior colleague Sri SVM Sastry for the GMRV Foundation. 


  1. Translating Dr Shyam's stories from Telugu into any other language constitutes a challenge because other languages, Hindi and English are also naturally woven into his style of writing.
    In this translation, Mr NS Murty has done a commendable job in capturing the narrative and idiomatic expression of Dr Shyam. Appreciate the effort by Mr NS Murty in introducing the story of an extraordinary story teller Dr Shyam to English audience!

    1. yes Mohan garu, i agree with you very .. Srinath

  2. Brilliant Translation, I must admit. By and large, the translated work of any author does not do justice to the author. Medico Shyam is a brilliant master story teller with lucid and lyrical narration. Mr NS Murthy has done an excellent job. As an example, see the following sentences:
    " there is only one thing that is worth hating!
    That is hate itself!"
    "like a brow stretched like a bow"
    I hope Mr NS Murthy translates "I C U" story of Medico Shyam also.

  3. A brilliant translation of an extraordinarily brilliant story of a master story teller, Medico Shyam. Sri NS Murthy has done justice to the lyrically written Telugu story" Nose Stud". It is usually very difficult to translate any work into any other language, but, Sri NS Murthy could do it very fluently, I presume. See the following sentences:
    " In fact, there is only one thing that is worth hating!
    That is hate itself!
    There is only one thing that is worth abhorring!
    It is abhorrence itself!". and
    "like a brow stretched like bow,"
    I am sure in due course of time, Sri NS Murthy will translate yet another brilliant story of Medico Shyam, I C U.

  4. " Darkness falls.
    It dawns again.
    Hues sparkle.
    Moonlight shines
    It rains.
    Day breaks again.
    Seasons change.
    People change.
    Roads divide.
    People part.
    Over time, even the strong wall paint- fades out."

    This lyrical flow, which is typically observed in Dr.Shyam's Stories, is not easy to translate.. as earlier Alladi Mohan garu said it is "challenging" and I too say the translation is very close to the original flow and rhythm...I very much appreciate Murthy garu's estimable endeavors. I am looking forward to more translations from Murthy garu's pen.


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